If someone ever mentions Fatehbad to you, do not bother looking for it on the map of India. Somewhere in Haryana, among soaring green trees, between one or two dried up canals and connected with broken puddled roads, you would find Sapna’s very own Fatehbad. Like children love slurping fruit jellies in the summer, like old men love snoring in the middle of reading a newspaper and like the young men love teasing those Chaudhary girls, Sapna loves her Fatehbad. It was 19 years ago that her father, Jaat Dharma Ram Singh had moved to this village. After the death of Sapna’s mother, Singh found it difficult to survive in the city of Ambala with Sapna and her two elder sisters.
Singh had earned a fortune while they were in Ambala city, therefore, marrying off his two elder daughters was not a problem. In villages, money determined respect one had in the community and respect determined prospective marriage offers for virgin girls.
The outside world was rapidly transforming into a scene that seemed to have come straight out of a movie. Things were changing fast. In the blink of an eye, came the internet; salwar-kameez was replaced by jeans and high school was taken over by competitive colleges.
Sambhawana, Sapna’s elder sister always complained to Singh, “You got us married too soon. We missed our chance of going to a city college and wearing these modern clothes. Cannot even begin to tell you, the way my heart burns, seeing these girls going to cinema halls and dinners. All I want now is that Sapna should quickly finish her school and live an independent life. Seeing her fly will give me the taste of this sky.”
Having big dreams, wearing western clothes and being ambitious had become a stereotype. The number of girls excelling professionally and turning into modern ladies had risen so greatly, that people imagined every girl had similar desires. Little did Sambhawana know that Sapna was still clinging on to her ghoonghat like their mother did, in the olden days. Little did these people understand that Sapna did not fancy partying or watching films in cinema halls, she rather fancied cooking a spicy meal in the kitchen. It was extremely difficult for the Singh family to believe that a young girl like Sapna, who had an entire world of opportunities in front of her, still chose her traditional Fatehgarh life.
Sapna was a simple and humble village girl who spent all her time looking after their haveli. She was so occupied with the world inside, that she never had a chance to meet people or make friends. At 19, when Singh married her to a zamindar’s son, Sapna was content and never cranky.
It had been 3 months of their marriage and the two had finally begun to speak with each other. As Sapna hurried to pack Rajiv’s lunch, he stood behind her and saw the mirth that Sapna was in, while she got his tiffin ready. He finally asked her the question that he had been thinking about, from the first day he had seen her.
“Sapna… what makes you so different? These days, girls equate marriage to a prison. They hate stepping into the kitchen. They rebel against ghoonghat. And you? You seem to be in love with a life that people look down upon, in today’s time.”
Sapna smiled. She was used to people giving her reactions like these. “People constantly ask us to not judge a girl when she wears a short skirt, while she goes clubbing, on a Saturday night. They demand from us to let a girl do all that a man can, in her career. We are being taught to respect a girl for the choices that she makes and for the life she decides to live. So why has been the world looking at me with glances of inferiority when I find my happiness in making lunch for my family. Why is it that when I go grocery shopping with my face covered, women exchange giggles and make fun of me. How should I go about explaining to each one of them that I enjoy being who I am. I feel safe and proud when I put this veil over my face. How do I tell them that I am not ambitious and it is okay to not be so? This life, that I have chosen for myself, is an individual choice. It makes me no less dignified nor any less independent. I am a woman of substance, who does not want to live on the world’s expectations. This is the life I always wanted to live and this is what my individuality is. To be able to live on my terms is my strength. Today, I do not have a degree and I don’t wear trousers but I am proud of myself.
Rajiv was stunned. He had never imagined his coy bride to be such a confident woman. Without saying anything more, he left the house and Sapna accompanied him till the gate. Before leaving, Rajiv took out his smartphone and said,” Can I take a picture of you? Let me show you how beautiful you look in this attire and with this ghoonghat.” Sapna couldn’t stop blushing as Rajiv clicked the perfect picture which was kept safe in his wallet for the rest of their lives.
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